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Oscar Dronjak (Ceremonial Oath)

Interview with Oscar Dronjak from Ceremonial Oath
by Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco at 20 March 2013, 10:31 PM

CEREMONIAL OATH have re-released their cult and influential concept album “The Book Of Truth” both on vinyl and CD through Century Media with a bunch of bonus extras including the DESECRATOR demos. MettleAngel spoke with Oscar Dronjak all about this, living the life of HAMMERFALL for 20 years, and making his mark on the history of Swedish Metal.

Hey Brother, I am so excited to discuss CEREMONIAL OATH with you. I tried to talk to you about it when I first saw  HAMMERFALL open for DEATH. You were quite reticent back then to broach the subject.

Well, you have to understand that HAMMERFALL was my priority when we first came to America.

I know, which is why we can now talk about it in length. Did you read my CD review?

I plan to get to it soon. Currently, I am writing a book about the history of HAMMERFALL. I am actually writing about that DEATH tour, and what an amazing experience it was for us. I hope to have this published in the fall. So far, it is only coming out in Sweden.

I caught you in Indiana. It was my 30th birthday. I am a huge fan of “Legacy Of Kings”. I am sure my buddy Stark from OVERDRIVE has mentioned the impact HAMMERFALL has had on the history of Swedish Metal, and Power Metal in general.

We never considered ourselves to be Power Metal, just a Heavy Metal band with leather and spikes.

I understand, but you guys definitely laid the groundwork for a major resurgence. We are here to discuss CEREMONIAL OATH, so let us do that. You did not play on the album “Carpet”, right?

I do not consider “Carpet” to be a CEREMONIAL OATH album. By the time this came out, I had already left the band. They wanted me to change my voice structure. They wanted me to sing like the guy in DEMOLITION HAMMER. I wanted to sing like Martin in PESTILENCE.

“Carpet” did have two vocalists on it, including Anders Fridén from In Flames, and Thomas Lindberg from At The Gates. I only bought it because of the Maiden cover. At this time few bands were covering Iron Maiden like SENTENCED. Is this when you founded CRYSTAL AGE?

Actually, I left CEREMONIAL OATH even before “The Book Of Truth” was released. I was just not happy with the direction the band was heading. They wanted more Death Metal elements, and I wanted more Classic Metal and Rock influences.

When did you come up with the Faustian concept?

After we released the B-Side of “For I Have Sinned”, once we changed the band from DESECRATOR to CEREMONIAL OATH, I came up with the idea basing the Demon's name off a Superman comic and the moon of Krypton. I changed the spelling and created the Demon Wheghtor.

It seems like the character Simon is struggling with good and evil. The CRYSTAL AGE album also has the dichotomy of dualism. Even though the cover art would indicate, that album is not about Star Wars, right?

Yeah, many people confuse this, because they do not read the lyrics properly. Each album deals with the triumph of good over evil. The philosophy that the main character does not need to rely on God, but only himself. This is the basis for Satanism, you know.

Yeah, I am well versed in the works of Anton LeVay.

On “The Book Of Truth”, the fallen priest renounces religion and creates Thunderworld.

I also notice similarities to SABBAT's “Dreamweaver” based on the book The Way Of The Wyrd. I first heard  CEREMONIAL OATH on the “Metal Militia - Metallica Tribute” on Black Sun Records. I also heard CRYSTAL AGE on there. I had never heard any DESECRATOR songs until I got the re-release.

I enjoyed doing those covers. However, once we formed the band, I had grown tired of the local Death Metal scene in Gothenburg.  I wanted to champion acts that I love like ACCEPT and JUDAS PRIEST. This is what led me to creating HAMMERFALL. I met up with Mikael Stanne, and we did an early demo for “Steel Meets Steel”.

I actually have that purple demo tape. I was blown away when I first heard this. I knew that HAMMERFALL were going to lead the charge to a full-on '80s revival. I am also grateful for the band doing covers of bands and introducing me to acts that I had never heard like STORMWITCH and PICTURE.

We just wanted to honour the bands we had enjoyed in our youth.

I was very familiar with Pretty Maids who have a new album out called “Motherland”. Since I live in Ohio, I know and have met David T. Chastain. I was amazed how much a fan of EUROPE you are. Although, in all fairness, I had not heard anything before “The Final Countdown”, until you recommended them.

Jesper and I both love EUROPE. We had seen them on the “Prisoners In Paradise Tour”. When we sat down to write “Glory To The Brave”, we wanted to show our appreciation of this band.

I am amazed how you promote “Out Of This World”. Tell me how you named your mascot Hektor.

Hektor is our Eddie. Andreas Marschall had come up with the warrior character in his detailed graphic artwork. We held a fan contest to vote on his name while we were in the studio with Michael Wagner recording “Crimson Thunder”.

We saw you on that tour with KINGS X and DIO. In fact, we are confident that our son was conceived the night of that show.

Oh really!

I admire all the hard work you have done with all of your bands. Why did you exclude “Natural High” from you new “Gates Of Dahalla” DVD?

Well, we have so many songs to perform, and we wanted to focus on our newer material. It was fun to play with all original members of the band at that show.

I wish Stefan Elmgren was still in the band. I am not thrilled with FULL FORCE. It took me awhile to appreciate what you did with “Infected”.

HAMMERFALL is all about 100% DEDICATION. Yes, the music may be different, but the attitude is the same. Everyone wants us to write a “Legacy Of Kings II”. I look at it this way: each HF album is part of the unfinished castle that is the band. Every album is important in building the edifice that is our success.

I like that analogy. Each building block is essential, but it may not have the same shape or consistency of the other piece. This is why “Glory” and “Legacy” are the cornerstones. Tell me about the CEREMONIAL OATH reunion show. Are there plans for a small tour, or even a new album?

Never say never! Right now we are all too busy. Jesper Strömblad now has his new band THE RESISTANCE, and Anders Iwers has TIAMAT.

Well, at least the re-release has excellent packaging, so I have read. I only have the digital promo. New fans can finally discover your roots.

This is what we are hoping for, overall. I held on to the masters this long for this very reason. For over 20 years I have been wanting to properly re-release this material. With today's technology, the music and packaging will receive the proper promotion it rightfully deserves.

Can we also hope for a CRYSTAL AGE re-release? Man, this CD is really hard to find nowadays!

I have not made any plans for this right now. Also, I no longer have the original demo tapes, unfortunately.

Well, at least I still have my rare CD. Oscar, thank you for all the music these past two decades! I am glad you were finally willing to talk in detail about your past efforts.

Michael, thank you for all the support over these many years. I hope to catch you on tour soon!


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